Jailed Jazeera reporters' trial starts in Egypt

Jailed Jazeera reporters' trial starts in Egypt
Australian journalist Peter Greste gestures upon his return home at Brisbane International Airport, early February 5, 2015.

CAIRO - The retrial of two imprisoned Al-Jazeera journalists opened Thursday in Egypt with the defence of a Canadian reporter demanding he be freed like his Australian colleague.

Mohamed Fahmy, who is Canadian and whose family hoped he would be deported, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed appeared in white prison uniforms before the court in Cairo after their Australian colleague Peter Greste was freed and sent home earlier this month.

Greste himself was on the judge's roll call of defendants at the start of the trial.

"He's not here sir," responded a police officer when the judge called out his name.

Greste could be tried in absentia, although he was deported under a presidential decree that technically ended his trial in Egypt.

The court may simply drop the charges against him.

The three journalists had been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison but an appeals court ordered a retrial saying the prosecution had failed to prove its case.

They had been charged with aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood in their coverage and spreading false news about the government's deadly crackdown on the Islamists.

The case has been a major source of embarrassment for President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as he seeks to shore up international support following a widely condemned crackdown on the opposition.

Sisi passed a law by decree last year allowing foreigners to be deported to their home countries to stand trial or serve out their sentences.

Shortly before the start of the retrial, Fahmy's fiancee Marwa Omara said she was disappointed that - unlike Greste - Fahmy had not yet benefited from the decree.

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